EPA closes in on veto of controversial Pebble Mine project
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommended blocking a proposed gold and copper mining project in Alaska’s Bristol Bay Thursday.
The proposed Pebble Mine seeks to extract ore from the Pebble deposit in the southwestern part of the state, the largest known undeveloped copper ore deposit in the world. It is also home to a salmon fishery that supplies half the world’s sockeye salmon, and opponents of the mine have warned the project would devastate the fishery.
“If affirmed by EPA’s Office of Water during the fourth and final step, this action would help protect salmon fishery areas that support world-class commercial and recreational fisheries, and that have sustained Alaska Native communities for thousands of years, supporting a subsistence-based way of life for one of the last intact wild salmon-based cultures in the world,” regional administrator Casey Sixkiller said in a statement recommending a veto.
Sixkiller’s recommendation is the penultimate step in the long, involved veto process. The recommendation will now go to the desk of Radhika Fox, the EPA’s assistant administrator for water, who has 60 days to either issue the veto, amend it or decline.
Local environmentalists and conservationists had long opposed the project, while the state of Alaska, which owns the land, has backed it. However, some conservatives such as Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump Jr. have also come out against the project. Carlson aired a segment opposing the project on his show, the top-rated cable news program, in 2020.
Another high-profile opponent is Alaska Rep. Mary Peltola (D), who won a full Congressional term in November on a promise of “pro-fish, pro-family and pro-freedom” policies.
“Pebble Mine poses an existential risk to the greatest sockeye salmon run in the world. In Congress I’ll work to establish permanent protections. I’m made of salmon. I’ll fight for salmon,” she said in a July tweet.
During the administration of former President Obama, the EPA took steps to block the mine before developers even filed for permits. While the Trump administration withdrew the preemptive block on the project, the Army Corps of Engineers denied required permits in 2020, prompting an ongoing appeal.
The Hill has reached out to EPA headquarters and the Pebble Partnership, the group behind the proposed project, for comment.